Friday, 27 December 2013

Amsterdam: around and about

When I first came to uni the concept of "reading week" baffled me. Everyone loves a good week off, but it's just that we get so many holidays anyway, why slap another free week on us? It seemed utterly pointless.

I learned the hard way last year just how crucial reading week can be - two anthropology essays to hand in, no essay titles picked, no readings done, one week of 'freedom' becomes your best friend - cramming six weeks worth of preparation into three days work is no joke (remember: you have two essays! you picked two modules with the exact same assessment pattern, you naive fresher). So my first term reading week was spent at the kitchen table in my pyjamas, in front of my laptop with a pile of haphazard last-minute notes, and library books that kept me company by staying firmly shut. It was a stress that I hope to never relive.

Anyway, on a brighter note, this year I made full use of reading week in what I believe is the right way: I took a flight out of London, away from all the books and stress and depression. I did not manage to escape the weather, unfortunately; The Netherlands was in a cold and rainy mood when I got there, and even my prolonged presence of a week did nothing to cheer her up. 

I landed in Rotterdam airport, after an extremely dramatic journey to Heathrow (trains suck) and travelled to The Hague to meet my uncle. The first two days were spent therefore in absolute bliss at his house, with my adorable little baby cousin Kian (who just celebrated 8 months in the world! yay world!), being spoiled with lots of amazingly unhealthy food to snack on. Basically, I just "lolled" - as we call it: did absolutely nothing but laze about.

Baby Selfie #1

Baby Selfie #2: Sera, Kian and me

My sister Sera joined me there for an evening of lolling, and baby-adoring, but on Wednesday morning we decided to make an excursion to Amsterdam. 

We had such an incredible day - it was a colourful blur of oodles of food and fun:

We started off in the Dam Square with chips and curry sauce: a Dutch specialty (might be European in general?) that we discovered on our first trip to Holland and its pretty amazing! The thing about chips in Holland is, you have to always pay for sauce. So its like, 50 cents for a blob of ketchup which is really quite ridiculous, except everyone knows you can't have chips without sauce sooo there you are, forced to shell out 50 cents for ketchup (at least its curry ketchup?). Another little quirk about the chips is that most people love them with mayonnaise - I dunno about everyone else but I like mine with mustard, sometimes, but generally with some tomato-based sauce. Not just drizzled with plain old mayonnaise - but, each to their own, I guess.

This building had the oddest decorations: it was like a spiderweb of cotton but with lights on it, Christmas-Halloween?
We then decided to make our way to the Waterlooplein Flea Market which we knew would be quite touristy and kitschy but planned to visit just for fun. As we walked there, I made it a point to wander into every cheese and candy shop we saw because they were all just so colourful and pretty (also, free samples).

Holland is famous for its Gouda cheese, named after the Dutch city of Gouda

When we finally made it to the market it began to rain so we didn't stick around very long - it was mostly just loads of second-hand clothes, junk jewellery, old books. We can't really say if there are some hidden gems here but honestly, the less touristy, more specialist markets might have better finds.

Lunch was at "Bird Eatthai" - the snack bar. Its a little Thai place that seemed to be very popular, and the food was excellent. Sera had a traditional Thai red curry and I had chicken with peanuts in oyster sauce.

After that was coffee and cake in the cutest bakery/cafe - "Sugar and Spice". The owner/manager/allrolledinone had his own little kitchen at the back decorated with brightly coloured pans, flowers, fresh fruit and a salmon pink KitchenAid! My mother's is rose pink, but with the wooden counters and smell of cooking batter, it still felt a bit like home :'). While we were sitting there, he baked a pear cake which smelled so delicious, and then got quite grumpy when we asked for a slice of the "one that just came out of the oven, not in the window". He still gave it to us, though, with some muttered excuses about how he wasn't sure about how it would taste warm: its usually served cold etc. etc. but it was delish. Cute cafe with great cakes and bakes, just don't go there if you've got the giggles cause he's not a very friendly sort.

We spent the end of the evening in a Jenever-tasting bar near the Dam Square that we've been to with our parents our last trip to Amsterdam. Jenever is a sort of Dutch gin thats the traditional liquor of The Netherlands, and is apparently what actual gin evolved from! This place was called Het Aepjen/ In t'Aepjen or something like that but its really cosy and busy - apparently in one of the last remaining wooden buildings in the city. So it has tons of character and charm - funny signs and old paintings on the walls, an interesting crowd, and a huge ginger cat who's usually hanging about the place (though we didn't see him this time).

That, in the picture above, is drop. I had to show you a picture of it, just to warn you about it. It is the most disgusting creation known to mankind, and it claims to be some sort of candy. I don't really know what its made of (toxic chemicals/dung) and why people eat it (death wish?) but it seems really popular. The worst part is, they always try and force it on unsuspecting tourists - so if you're strolling casually past a candy store just be really wary of anything the friendly man outside hands you - cause it WILL be some cleverly disguised drop.

The next day, we took a train to Middelburg, the tiny little town in the middle of nowhere that Sera's university is at. Its really cute. I mean, I love London but the charm of an ancient little town square and a market everyday, just a few cafes and bars, knowing where everything is and who everyone is, you don't get that in a big city. Middelburg is beautiful, like all little Dutch towns I'm guessing, and its really great I think as its mostly a university so you see tons of students around. (And reaaallyyyy old people. Maybe too many old people)

The Town Hall in Middelburg
Below are some photos of an exhibition at The Galerie T in Middelburg called "Humans of Middelburg", a project based on the photoblog Humans of New York. It was a really fascinating exhibition, and I think what I loved most were the amazing photo-frames all the pictures were displayed in! Its really interesting to think how much  a single photo can reveal of a person's life.

Marzipan Vegetables

One euro breakfast :O

Middelburg is stunningly beautiful and serene, peaceful by day, warm by night -

It was a lovely few days in Middelburg, but we realised it was time to move on as the weekend was approaching and we found ourselves with nothing to do. So we made an impromptu overnight escape to the beautiful Belgian city of Bruges - details of which shall be shared in my next post!

Riana xxx


  1. Great post! xoxo

  2. Can't wait to read about Bruges

  3. I haven't been to Amsterdam in ages!
    I do think the Netherlands are a beautiful country, I especially love their countryside. So lovely.

    {Teffy's Perks} X